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Classic John Deere by Randy Leffingwell

Classic John Deere

Classic John Deere: Waterloo Boy, Model D, Model C, Model A& B, 20 & 30 Series; co-written by Rod Beemer

Two books in one: Randy Leffingwell’s “Classic John Deere Tractors” and Rod Beemer’s “John Deere Two-Cylinder Tractors“. Leffingwell’s chapters give a good history of John Deere as the second oldest continuous manufacturer in the United States. Beemer’s contribution covers the popular 2-cylinder tractors in a short concise chapter. He also gives all of the popular derivations. This should come in handy in Rollag this year. The photography is excellent as well.

192 pages
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Prodigal Son by Edward Villella

Prodigal Son

For those of you who aren’t aware, my son aspires to be a professional ballet dancer.  He currently lives away from home much of the year to train, and as a parent, I try to learn as much about the ballet world as possible in order to understand what he’s talking about, and also to help him with decisions that would help his career.

That said, there aren’t that many books out there that talk about the world of a male ballet dancer.  I was excited to run across Edward Villella’s autobiography.  Villella was a principal dancer for the New York City Ballet while it was under the direction of George Balanchine.  He joined the company when he was 20 years old and danced for 16 years until an injury forced him to stop performing.  This was in 1972.  Since that time, he has been active in the ballet world, giving lectures, teaching and also founded the Miami City Ballet, serving as artistic director until 2012.

I have read a few dance autobiographies now, and I think Villella’s is exceptional.  Not only is does he share great stories of his time with Balanchine and the New York City Ballet, but he shares much valuable information on his growth as a dancer.  I remember reading Li Cunxin’s book, Mao’s Last Dancer, when he talked about needing to build up his leg muscles in order to gain height with his jumps.  This type of practical information is something every dancer, I’m sure, can relate to.  Villella talks about the mechanics of the movement, and how to grow as a dancer by examining the movements in context with the music.  He says he had literally no musicality when he began dancing.  It’s this mature, almost scientific approach that helped him as a dancer, and it was also applied in terms of artistry and characterization.  These things don’t necessarily come naturally to dancers – they must be studied and applied.

When Balanchine died, he bequeathed his works to his ex-wife and a few others.  In the terms of the Balanchine trust, any company performing his works must hire a stager who is familiar with the work to teach the performers how the great choreographer intended it to be done.  It’s the same principle here.  These things must be taught, studied and applied.

There is so much valuable information in this book (not to mention a fascinating life story).  I recommend it to anyone, but particularly those interested in dance, and dancers who aspire to professional careers.

4 stars (out of 5)
Published in 1992
317 pages

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Dragon’s Lair by Sharon Kay Penman

Dragon's Lair

Sharon Kay Penman is my favorite author when it comes to historical fiction, and she wrote a four book mystery series that combines an exciting fictional mystery with her expertise on English history.  Dragon’s Lair is the third book in the Justin de Quincy mystery series.  As the Queen’s man (the Queen being Eleanor of Aquitaine), de Quincy is on a mission to Wales to find the missing ransom meant to free King Richard from his captors.

Those familiar with Penman’s Here be Dragons will be pleased to reacquaint themselves with Llywelyn the Great as he plays a key role in this mystery.  The story is exciting, and Penman creates characters that are memorable.

While I have enjoyed the first three mysteries, Dragon’s Lair is my favorite.  I can’t wait to find out what new adventure Justin de Quincy will embark upon in the next book,  Prince of Darkness!

4 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2003
339 pages

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Ford And Fordson Tractors by Michael Williams

Ford and Fordson Tractors

Ford and Fordson Tractors  is a short history of Henry Ford and his Fordson and Ford tractors from his first prototypes in 1907 to approximately 1960. The book covers his partnership with Harry Ferguson. There are chapters on Ford’s dealing with the British Government, with his factories in Cork Ireland, and Dagenham England. It is interesting how something as ‘American’ as Ford and Tractors ended being built exclusively in the UK for so many years. There are many excellent historical photographs from Ford and some newer color photos by Andrew Morland. I wish Williams had written further content about Ford’s tractor in the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s to bring the text up to date with the photos.

128 pages

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100 Years Of Vintage Farm Tractors edited by Michael Dregni

100 Years of Vintage Farm Tractors

100 Years of Vintage Farm Tractors: A Century of Tractor Tales and Heartwarming Family Farm Memories

This book is a collection of short stories about tractors and farm life from the last 100 years- emphasizing farming between 1930 and 1950. The stories are hit or miss. The illustrations are excellent especially Charles Freitag’s paintings and Ralph W. Sanders’ and Keith Baum’s photographs. The best chapters were “Working With Horses” by Ronald Jager, “The Harvest” by Jerry L. Twedt, “Rites of Passage” by Ben Logan, and “I’m a Natural Born Salesman” by William Hazlett Upton.

160 pages

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The Fry Chronicles by Stephen Fry

The Fry Chronicles

The Fry Chronicles: An Autobiography

As a fan of British comedies and of the 1980’s, it would be hard to pass on this delightful memoir by Stephen Fry. Fry starts where his previous memoir “Moab Is My Washpot” leaves off. He’s fresh out of jail and headed for Queen’s College in Cambridge. His experiences in College couldn’t be more different than mine. It seems he did little but put on plays and have fun. I’m quite jealous. He tells wonderful stories without coming off as a braggart, in fact if the book has a fault it is the writer’s self-doubts. Fry takes some joy in sharing his addictions. In this book they are harmless. I can’t complain about the time spent in British theater for the details that bog down those sections make the sections on British television sing. I found the book a pleasure to read.

448 pages

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